by Dave Moore, Staff Writer
It’s the little things – the willingness to have a beer with a mentor, internships, a follow-up phone-call or even having a work-product to show off a job candidate’s skills – that Dallas area employers say they’re missing when they fill jobs locally. Of course, the newer things – experience in project management, the ability to use industry-related data and an understanding of the workings of their industries – that hiring managers desire as well.
Those were points of consensus from a broad swath of industry leaders in professional services – from the logistics, construction, consulting and real estate sectors – who attended the Dallas Regional Chamber Industry Convening Dec. 6.
“The construction market has had a huge uptick, especially in the nation’s fourth-largest economy, which is DFW,” said Thomas Crowther, Managing Partner of The Crowther Group, whose clients include Toyota, Wal-Mart and Target. “In fourth quarter of 2016, there was over $11 billion worth of construction services happening in this market,” he said.
Yet that increase in activity has coincided with a large number of baby boomer retirements, leaving the industry in need of individuals who can perform at that level. Crowther said his firm is working with high schools and lower-level schools to establish a replacement workforce.
A key element in making the transition will be workers’ willingness to communicate with each other, he said.
“It would help us for those two types of personalities (retiring baby boomers and millennials) to co-exist better, if there were more social skills,” he said. “It’s almost as if you’re working with your grandfather, or your dad. And so, sometimes, being involved with that organization on campus, or going to have a beer, is the conversation you’re going to have with tenured skillsman to learn the craft.”
Nearly all companies need workers with project-management skills, said Ty Beasley, Office Managing Partner at RSM US’s Dallas office – an audit, tax and consulting service that service mid-market clients.
“Project-management training… is industry agnostic,” said Beasley. “It is skillset agnostic. There is a project involved in everything. There’s a process between a start and a finish. Project management skills are becoming more critical in today’s environment.”
Beasley said that when a firm hires RSM, they’re seeking expertise or skills that aren’t available in-house.
KPMG’s Taylor McKamy, JLL’s Sarah Boehland and EY’s Anneliese Schumacher said their operations are in immediate need of individuals who are familiar with the tools of their trade. In JLL’s case, it’s ARGUS real estate software; in the case of KPMG, students should take courses in management information systems, which would help them understand databases, the use of big data and data analytics. EY is looking for dual majors – in both accounting, and in information systems/computer science/artificial intelligence.
“The other area that hasn’t been mentioned (in the discussion) is the need for underrepresented minority talent,” said Schumacher. “And really working with high schools, grammar schools, to increase the pool of underrepresented minorities, and students studying accounting and technology. That’s a big issue.”
The ability to adapt to changes in technology and the increased availability of data is important to Texas Central, Texas’ bullet train.
Arbuckle said in his former job at AT&T, his role evolved from analog technology, to the digital space over 30 years’ time; the learning curves of today’s workers must be much quicker, he said.
Though they cited needs for industry-specific skills and knowledge repeatedly, panelists said incoming hires still lack knowledge on the basics of creating subject and signature lines for emails, basic writing skills, and the ability to interact with people face-to-face. Employers at the panel also especially valued job candidates who were motivated enough to teach themselves skills, and who followed through after their initial contacts.
Panelists Mark Edgar of Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Jarlin Jia of Co.media agreed that job candidates should get as much experience in speaking and communicating as they can, through organizations such as via Toastmasters International.
“Working in a communications firm, we see that a lot of people have degrees in communications, who are still missing the mark in communications,” said Jason Meyer, of Cooksey Communications. “But we’re having to adjust the way we communicate internally, because there is less face-to-face communication, and there is more email. You can’t get tone.”
Meyer’s work at Cooksey has included representing the 23,000-square-acre mixed-use AllianceTexas development, which employs nearly 50,000 people in fields from logistics to financial services.
“From day one, the only thing that’s been holding back projects like AllianceTexas, and our region, is workforce development issues,” he said. Meyer said the development has collaborated with Workforce Solutions to create the Alliance Opportunity Center to help fill those jobs with professionals with matching skills.
“One of the key things I’ve been working on from a public relations standpoint is, ‘How do we get the word out? How do we make sure people know these jobs are available?’”
The DRC industry convening, which was sponsored by Bank of America, is part of its strategic mission to help educational institutions in the region to better prepare students to be workforce ready for the North Texas economy. It represented the fourth and final meeting of the 2017 series.
The panel held a roundtable discussion in front of an audience of representatives from North Texas learning institutions, including Dallas, Grand Prairie and Richardson ISDs, the University of Phoenix, UNT-Dallas, Southern Methodist University, Dallas Baptist University, the University of Dallas, Boy Scouts of America, Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas, the Oak Cliff Family YMCA, and Dallas Community College District.
by Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Help wanted: Service industry workers who can turn their interactions with customers into long-term relationships with companies. Must be good with technology, yet must not be addicted to their devices. Also should be effective in working with peers to resolve conflicts and solve problems. Should be good with numbers.
A tall order no doubt, but those are the needs of employers in the hospitality and retail sector in the Dallas Region, and nationwide.
Some of the nation’s leading HR professionals from the hospitality and retail sectors – including Wal-Mart, Target, CVS Health, Sheraton Dallas, USAA, the Hilton Anatole, The Joule hotel and Sewell – convened recently at the Dallas Regional Chamber to discuss employee attributes crucial to their success, and existential challenges to their industries. Among their industry threats: Online price competition, intense competition for good workers, and employee turnover.
One solution agreed upon: a system where service-industry jobs become careers, in which workers advance in pay and competence by obtaining industry certifications that mark their skills in customer service, sales and communications. This approach – called creating “stackable credentials” – works in a fashion similar to the system that employs engineers, attorneys and even airplane pilots.
“Walmart Foundation has invested in both the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Retail Industry Fundamentals credential, as well as the Western Association of Food Chains’ Retail Management Certificate,” said panelist Danielle Goonan, a senior HR manager at Walmart Giving. “In the hopes that one day, a system of stackable credentials will be recognized, validated and incentivized in retail.”
Many service industries have adopted the NRF’s credential plans, or initiatives that meet similar ends, panelists at the DRC discussion said.
“We are absolutely huge supporters of growth and development within our property,” said Rebecca Rodriguez, an assistant at the downtown Dallas Sheraton, a 14-year employee at the company. “One of and our proud moments is when we are able to promote from within.”
Rodriguez said aside from familiarizing new hires with the company culture early on, Sheraton relies on peer-mentors to guide them in their training. Though employees often begin their careers as front-desk agents, Rodrigues said, they are encouraged to work in other hotel operations, including guest services, and even as a concierge.
“Once you have expertise in that role, your incentive is that you get ‘x’ amount of dollars more to your hourly rate,” she said. Eventually, employees work their ways to supervisory roles.
Panelists agreed that the sales and service industries face intense pressure due to the influence of the internet – sales professionals face price competition from customers who comparison shop online; and restaurants and hotels face scrutiny from online reviewers.
Those challenges are pressuring workers to exceed customer expectations, they said. Meanwhile, many service-sector workers are growingly absorbed in their smartphones.
“In hospitality, the internet has changed the way we communicate,” said Cherie Covault, assistant HR director of Dallas’ Hilton Anatole. “Our business requires us to be engaging with that person in front of you,” she said. “It’s not just a hello. It’s finding out a little bit about that person, connecting with that person, so they feel they’re the most important person in the person in front of you.”
Covault and other panelists agreed that when service industry professionals make that connection, they’re securing customer loyalty, and repeat business.
And while service-industry workers are expected to make those connections, they also must be able to use technology to improve both the employee and the customer experience.
“Most banks are closing brick and mortar (locations), but we’ve been in this (digital) space for years,” said Toni Howard Lowe, HR operations leader for USAA’s Dallas campuses. “We’re so connected with our membership, we are now at a place in our technology that we know if you have a child who is about to turn 16, so now we need to talk to you about car insurance, or our auto circle, which can help you connect to Sewell (for example) to buy a car.”
Likewise, according to Lowe, USAA believes that treating its employees well translates to excellent customer service.
“People ask why our customer index scores are so high,” Lowe said. “If you have really happy employees, that translates from a customer-service perspective. Internally, we have our employee satisfaction tool. It’s almost like an internal Facebook: ‘I’m not happy right now. The bathroom’s not clean.’ It’s annoying sometimes, but … feedback is a gift; it also gives us innovative ideas on what our employees need.”
Lowe added that USAA’s employees have strong connections with the company, its mission toward service personnel and their families.
Sewell Infiniti Pre-owned Sales Manager Ben Yarbrough said another way his company encourages exceptional customer service is by relating past success stories.
“Anytime we have a meeting, we tell a customer service story about a time when one of our associates provided exceptional customer service,” Yarbrough said. “It furthers our culture. It fosters this idea of, ‘How can I provide exceptional customer service? Where can I find the unique opportunity with this guest?’”
Panelists also agreed that one core attribute that companies of all sorts need is the ability to listen, the ability to demonstrate empathy, and to be able to work in a group to resolve conflicts and problems – also known as an “emotional IQ” – are sometimes more important than credentials, they agreed.
Jonathan Chaplowe, director of people and culture at The Joule hotel, said his organization vets prospective employees by watching how they interact in a scenario that includes conflict.
“They’ll be invited to a cultural interview, where they’ll come in, and basically sit around the table with everyone else in the group, and they will interact,” Chaplowe said. “We’ll put a project in front of them, and say, ‘OK, interact.’ Here’s what we’re expecting you to do. Part of that project is conflict, value-driven principles, to see how they defend them, and to see how flexible they are.”
While competition is fierce for quality workers, service sector employers are grappling with the issue that many prospective and current workers lack basic math and language skills. A recent study by the National Skills Coalition – sponsored by the Wal-Mart Foundation – found that 62 percent of all service-sector workers have limited reading skills, and 74 percent take basic math skills.
“Given these figures and their impact on both productivity and employees’ ability to advance, employers in this industry need to figure out ways to address this challenge, while preparing employees for the future of work,” Wal-Mart’s Goonan said.
Wal-Mart’s launched two initiatives to bridge that gap: One program, called Pathways, is a work-based training program that teaches them the basics of retail selling, and how to more effectively interact with customers; the second, called Academies, teaches employs more-advanced retail sales and how to run store departments. By the end of 2017, Wal-Mart will graduate more than 225,000 supervisors from its Academies program.
“We’ve got to use our partners in the community and take things that have been tackled from a foundational standpoint, through primary education,” said Allison Monroe, HR business partner at Target, adding that the company has customer-service training in roughly 1,800 Target stores. “All of us, as employers, have quite a bit of responsibility on our shoulders, to craft training environments or (educational) delivery methods that are reasonably flexible for all the different types of people we’re going to employ, and the different things we’re going to ask of them.”
Dallas Regional Chamber partner Bank of America is the sponsor of DRC industry convenings.
A video of event is available per member request to DRC manager Bryan Tony, 214.746.6643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long-Range Plan Steering Committee Named
(Release courtesy of Texas State Board of Education)
AUSTIN – The State Board of Education has created an 18-member steering committee to help it develop a new Long-Range Plan for Public Education.
The committee will work throughout the 2017-2018 school year to draft recommendations that will be sent to the State Board, which will ultimately approve the final plan.
The steering committee is made up of five board members who are:
At the request of the board, the heads of three agencies appointed one staff member each to serve on the committee. Those appointees are:
Rounding out the committee are 10 stakeholder representatives. More than 600 Texans volunteered to serve on the committee when the board solicited nominations this summer.
“We are overwhelmed by the volume and quality of applications we received from Texans who offered to serve on the Long-Range Plan for Public Education Steering Committee. The 10 stakeholders selected will bring a wide breadth of the experience to the table,” Bahorich said.
“We hope to involve those who were not selected in other ways in the process, such as inviting them to community meetings that will be held around the state over the coming year,” she said.
The 10 individuals selected to represent stakeholder groups on the committee are:
The first meeting of the steering committee is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 12 in the board room, room 1-104, of the William B. Travis State Office Building, located at 1701 N. Congress Ave. in Austin.
The Texas Education Agency, The Texas Comprehensive Center (TXCC) at American Institutes for Research (AIR), and the Meadows Foundation are providing in-kind or financial assistance for this phase of the project.
By John Olajide
No one succeeds on their own.
That’s why when I was given the opportunity to be “Principal for a Day” at Kennedy-Curry Middle School more than three years ago, I took it without hesitation.
By the end of that demanding day, after learning what it takes to run a school in Southern Dallas with an enrollment of about 800 students, I came away with a profound respect for the tremendous responsibilities shouldered by principals every day.
I was so inspired that I agreed to literally open the doors of Axxess to these students, so they could get a firsthand look at what can be possible in their futures – and our doors have remained open.
Every year, we invite dozens of the school’s students into our North Dallas office, where they can get hands-on experience in various fields and test their skills as engineers, app developers, healthcare professionals, graphic designers, human resource professionals and more. Our team members talk with students about what courses they took, their career journey and what they did to eventually earn a place at Axxess.
Our company is an especially good place for students to visit because they are exposed to professionals in healthcare, computing, human resources, law, engineering, marketing, public relations, finance and more. This is so much better than the traditional career day, where adults just tell students about where they work – the students get to experience the work it firsthand.
More importantly, students get to see how our employees work and play as a team. They see who we are – a diverse group of people just like them, who get excited about doing great things. Visiting our office gives students something to aspire to beyond the classroom. In fact, more than a few Kennedy-Curry Middle School students have told us that the time they spent at Axxess made them think differently about their schoolwork and that they now take it more seriously.
You might be wondering what Axxess gets out of this. In short, our employees get to be an inspiration to others. We get to spend time with a lot of students who just need a chance, and I have no doubt they will be the future leaders of tomorrow. Playing a role in inspiring them to dream big makes what we do every year seem that much more important.
I encourage all business and community leaders to take part in the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Principal for a Day program.
John Olajide is President and CEO of Axxess, the fastest growing home healthcare technology company, which has partnered with DISD’s Kennedy-Curry Middle School since fall 2014. Enrollment for the DRC’s Principal for a Day program begins Wednesday, August 9. If you are interested in participating, please contact email@example.com.
Treveon Washington, a senior at South Oak Cliff High School, is one of several high school seniors participating in Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program. To learn more about the program, click here.
by Treveon Washington, Mayor’s Intern
Starting my first two weeks in the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program, I thought I would start in an office. But instead, I started off in a camp. This isn’t just any camp: it’s Future Focus!
What is Future Focus? Well, it’s a career-readiness camp that helps young scholars plan for their future after high school and college. During these two weeks, I learned how to never give up, to keep going, to always have faith, and how to work in the big business world.
I met students who attended other schools, grew up in different parts of the state and some of whom weren’t born in the U.S. I also had the opportunity to meet CEOs, CFOs, presidents, and vice presidents of six companies. Among the businesses and organizations I toured were Dallas City Hall, JPMorgan Chase, Methodist Dallas Medical Center, TD Industries, GEICO, and AT&T.
During my tour of Dallas City Hall, I had the chance to meet defense attorneys who work hard to win each case on behalf of the City of Dallas. At Methodist Hospital Dallas, I learned that the health care system has a lot to offer. I had the chance to meet one of the health care system’s surgeons, a pharmacist, a radiologist, and several other health care professionals. Visiting GEICO was amazing. My time at the company’s Dallas corporate office gave me a better understanding about insurance policies and insurance fraud.
The thing that stands out most to me about the leaders I met from each of these organizations is the way that they all encouraged us to be great, to not give up in life, and to always go the extra mile. It’s great to realize that there are people in this world who genuinely care about my success.
Future Focus was an amazing experience for campers. In addition to the company visits, my favorite part of Future Focus was the college fair, which gave me a chance to expand my college choices and get more information about those colleges.
The opportunity to meet new, successful people at a variety of companies was a great experience; I would gladly experience Future Focus again just to relive those moments. Future Focus didn’t just give me something to do for two weeks, it gave me something that I will cherish for life.
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